Twelve missing boys and their football coach have been found nine days after going missing in a flooded cave in Thailand, local authorities have said.
The governor of Chiang Rai province, Narongsak Osottanakorn, said Thai navy Seals had found the group in the six-mile Tham Luang cave, on the border with Laos and Myanmar, “all with signs of life”.
He said the 13 were being rescued, adding: “We found them safe. But the operation is not over.”
The boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach went missing after entering the cave on 23 June, prompting a desperate round-the-clock search beset by torrential downpours that blocked divers from going in.
The international rescue effort has gripped Thailand. Cave diving experts flew in from the UK, and 17 US air force rescue and survival specialists travelled from Japan to join the 132 Thai army, navy and police officers working day and night to try to find the group.
US navy Seals reached a T-junction deep into the cave, one or two miles from where the boys were believed to be, on Saturday. Divers had reached the same spot earlier last week but were forced back by floodwater.
Several teams trekked into the thick jungle above the cave, desperately looking for new openings that might lead to the trapped boys. One group drilled into a 40-metre chimney that led to a muddy chamber and helicopters carrying food, water and medical supplies were dispatched to the area.
The boys, members of Moo Pa academy, reportedly knew the site well and had visited it many times before, buoying hopes that they might have trekked to a large airy chamber in the centre.
They cycled to the cave with their coach after football practice and are thought to have crawled in through a narrow 15-metre tunnel that became completely flooded due to almost non-stop heavy rain.
Source: The Guardian